Leadership qualities that are often underrated but are truly extraordinary.
Below is one of my all-time favorite stories about servant leadership…
A group of soldiers and their commanding officer were delivering a wagon full of supplies to their regiment. It was a glorious day in the forest – sunlight was filtering through the canopy above – the sounds of the horses pulling the wagon were the only noises that disturbed the quiet of the forest on this Summer’s day and the soldiers were basking in it.
All of a sudden, there was a loud crack and a rush in front of them – a decent size tree had fallen across their path, blocking their way. The soldiers got down from the wagon and proceeded to try and move the tree off the path, and they struggled with no success, all the while their Corporal was standing away at a distance yelling orders for them to work harder.
After a little while, a sole rider came by, and surveying the situation asked the Corporal, “Why don’t you help your men?”
To which the Corporal replied, “I’m their Corporal, it’s not my job.”
After hearing this, the rider dismounted his horse, promptly removed his jacket and proceeded to help the soldiers move the tree from the path. The soldiers were extremely grateful for the riders assistance.
The rider, while mounting his horse said to the Corporal, “The next time you require assistance to move something heavy, call your Commander in Chief”, and then he continued on his way.
It was in that moment that it dawned on the Corporal and the soldiers exactly who the man was who’d helped them – it was the first President of the United States, and their Commander in Chief, George Washington. (Source)
A pretty powerful story. No doubt George Washington made a huge impression on those men by that simple action, and one that I’m sure they not only dined out on for many years to come, but one that taught them something valuable about leadership (I hope!!).
Leadership is all about servanthood. Ever since the great leader, Robert K Greenleaf, penned the expression “Servant Leadership” back in 1970, there has been a growing ground swell of support for this style of leadership – putting your team before yourself – you lead because you serve and you serve because you lead.
Servant Leadership goes against a more traditional view where the people of a business or organisation are there for the sole purpose of serving the leader and serving the business.
When people lead by title or entitlement, this is the lowest level of Leadership.
The product is not the product, the product is your people. You can’t do anything great on your own and it’s your people who help you create your product and achieve your success. The central belief to Servant Leadership is that by looking after your people, showing you care and by growing them, they thrive as people and as team members, becoming really engaged with their role and the mission of the business. And as a result, your business performance lifts, and lifts way more, I believe, than under traditional leadership.
The moment you take your eyes off looking after your people, you will start to lose your way.
How are you serving your people?
In the next few articles, I want to focus on some highly effective servant leadership strategies that’ll help you serve your people at a much greater level and this my friend, will help you grow your business. Some you might do already, some you might not do ……yet……..
Ok, to kick things off, let me begin with a more obvious way you can serve your team, and that is deliberately taking time to show your team that you care for them – for not only their professional life, but also their life outside of your business.
My mentor Jim always said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
The level of engagement, loyalty and trust you receive back when you take an interest in each team member and you invest resources to grow their thinking and grow their professional skills, will skyrocket. If you want to take your business performance to the next level, then this is a powerful leadership strategy that is readily at your disposal, that you should give serious consideration to. Don’t put this one on the back burner until later. Schedule some one on one time with your people now if you haven’t already done so and check in with them! For example, ask how they’re going. Ask them how life at home is. Ask them how they’re going in their role and is there anything you can do to help them? Work out a plan together to grow them in their role.
What could you do better to make the people you lead know that you genuinely care for them and their success?
How do you grow your people? Do you have a plan to do this?
Do you care about their work/life balance?
Do you care about what’s going on in their life?
Another highly effective way you can serve your people is to really listen to them and not talk. And sometimes, as the leader, as the boss, it’s hard to do this!
Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
So true. And when someone actually really does listen to us, the effect on us is profound. We’re taken aback a little as it’s unexpected and, as a result, our impression of that person increases and we start to trust them a little more than others. As this process continues over time, trust grows and the relationship builds as a result. And I’ll wager a bet that you’ll do more for that person than those who don’t really listen to you.
Do you truly listen to your people?
Dean Jackson has been quoted saying, “Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, and others over self.”
Being an effective leader doesn’t mean you have to come up with all the answers all the time. The people you surround yourself with will, more often than not, have great ideas! And when you ask for their thoughts and truly listen to them, not only are you showing them respect, you build trust and loyalty with that team member and grow their engagement with the mission of your business, and that’s priceless!
Just a last note on this point, it’s way more powerful if you take your meeting off site sometimes, like at your home, or theirs – it makes a big impression when you take the time to do this and it has a tremendous impact on your key people. It doesn’t get more personal than your home and it goes a long way to building relationships, trust and loyalty, and quite often, this will lead to people opening up about things they might not have otherwise, that will help you lead your business more effectively.
I recently read about a true story of a man who oversaw hospitals across the south eastern region of the US and he had a particular CEO under his leadership who was having a difficult time with one of his surgeons. The surgeon however, was the highest earner for the hospital, so negotiating with him was proving extremely tough. The man visited the surgeon at his home one day and among other things, he quickly learned that his dog was the centre of his life and he had a major passion for all things canine. And, after taking a great deal of time talking with the surgeon about his demands and his willingness to reach an agreement, the man asked the surgeon how often the CEO visited him at his medical practise.
“Never” the surgeon replied.
The man asked if the CEO had been to his home.
The man then went back and asked the CEO if he’d been to the Surgeons practise.
“Regularly” was the response.
What about his house?
“Yes, I’ve been to his house”.
“What’s his dogs name?”
Of course, the CEO couldn’t answer.
The surgeon had become a resource to manage rather than a valuable team member whom which to listen to and to serve.
How could you improve the way you listen to your people?
When was the last time you asked them for advice?
When was the last time you truly took an interest in their life outside of your business?
Nothing will help a Leader if they don’t take the time to listen. I truly hope the CEO listened to the advice his area manager gave him that day.
Are you listening?
What aren’t you hearing?
Alright, that’s a wrap for today. I hope like me, that you’re now spending some time on how you can better serve your people as the leader. If you’re already doing this, that’s awesome! I’d love to know what you’ve found effective with your own team.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I trust it helps you build your leadership strength so you can live a better life! Keep climbing!
I talk further about this in my book, “The Dream Is Everything”.
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